Lagos state is once again proving to be one of the dirtiest cities in the world as heaps of refuse litter the metropolis, prompting residents to worry that such could lead to an epedemic outbreak
By Anayo Ezugwu
RESIDENTS of Lagos State are increasingly worried over huge heaps of refuse across the metropolis. Presently, all the nook and crannies of state including major roads are littered with refuse thereby causing an eyesore and in some cases obstructing the flow of traffic. This has heightened the fear of an outbreak of an epidemic across the state if the government fails to remedy the situation soon.
A visit to Suluere, Obalende, Jakande, Apapa, Ajegunle, Ojo areas of Lagos, among others revealed that the city is swimming in filth thereby leaving up to its classification as one of the dirtiest city in the world.
Realnews investigations showed that the resurgence of refuse on Lagos streets have so much to do with the lingering faceoff between the state government and Private Sector Participation, PSP, refuse collectors over the introduction of the Cleaner Lagos Initiative, CLI, a new waste disposal policy.
Aggrieved that the state government did not carry them along, the waste collectors under the aegis of the Association of Waste Managers of Nigeria, AWMN, filed a suit against the government which is still pending in court. To give legal backing to the CLI, the state government had initiated an executive bill which has since been passed into law by the State House of Assembly.
To drive the CLI, government had engaged Visionscape Sanitation Solutions Limited, an environmental utility group, to takeover waste management in the state under a Public Private Partnership PPP, arrangement. This foreign firm is expected to apply advanced technology in waste management in the state. Government’s argument is that this arrangement was in the best interest of the state. But the PSP waste managers disagreed.
However, Jide Idris, commissioner for health, has explained that the need for the new environmental initiative became imperative owing to the fact that there was need for a review of the old system to tackle emerging challenges. “All of us have a role to play in keeping Lagos healthy because there is a connection between health, environment and security,” he said.
The state government has also allayed the fears of residents over the resurgence of waste on major highways and streets’, assuring that government is on top of the situation and working round the clock to make it a thing of the past. At the recent inauguration of the new board of the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps, LAGESC, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode said the new waste management policy of government encapsulated in the CLI was designed to holistically address the challenges in the sector.
He said all hands were already on deck to confront the initial hitches within the transition period. He said adequate officials of LAGESC transformed from the former Kick Against Indiscipline, KAI, have been employed to police all nooks and crannies of the state to curb indiscriminate dumping of waste and other acts inimical to clean, hygienic and sustainable environment.
The governor said concerted efforts were ongoing to clear the heaps of refuse across the metropolis, and assured that there would be marked improvement in coming days. “We are all living witnesses to the restructuring we are trying to do in the environmental sector. That restructuring culminated in the introduction of CLI which is focused at ensuring that the way we clean Lagos is comparable to what is being done in first class cities in the world.
“As a result, we are changing the way environment in Lagos, is being managed and to help us to achieve that, this Sanitation Corp is important. But more importantly now is to speak to the fact that yes, we are having some challenges in the area of waste management in Lagos, today. We all live in Lagos, but I want to reaffirm that we are doing everything to ensure that this becomes a thing of the past,” he said.
Even though the state government, through the CLI, quickly swung into action to clear the accumulated waste, the rate of clearance has not outstripped the rate of waste generation, especially in communities and areas where waste cannot be collected at night.
As a result of this, public health physicians have expressed concerns over the state of Lagos environment that is currently in squalor. They warned that the new outbreak of Lassa fever in some states across the country might happen in the state amidst heaps of loose rubbish around major markets and streets.
Akin Osibogun, public health expert, said improperly disposed refuse could cause common hazards such as breeding of vermin’s and vectors of disease. Vermin (colloquially varmint or varmit) are pests or nuisance animals that spread diseases or destroy crops or livestock. He explained that common houseflies that are in abundance at sites of improperly disposed refuse could also transmit diarrheal causing agents of disease. “Rats will breed rapidly in the presence of improperly disposed refuse,” he said.
He stressed that environmental factors obviously have impact on human health and, therefore, the general public should all be concerned about the state of their surroundings. Other determinant of one’s health includes human genetics, individual lifestyles, and health care system of the people.
“We know that rats are associated with the spread of diseases such as Lassa fever, and Leptospirosis. Rats also cause economic losses by consuming and spoiling household food items. In addition, improperly disposed refuse also pose fire hazards and can be the source of physical injuries to man in addition to its unsightliness and the psycho-social aversion it creates.
“It can also cause blockage of drainage systems with resultant flooding during raining seasons, which also lead to an increased incidence of diarrheal diseases as a result of contamination of food and drinking water sources,” he said.
Osibogun advised individuals and communities to be properly organised to dispose of their refuse in hygienic manner to prevent the spread of diseases related to improper refuse disposal. “Individuals can bag their refuse in polythene bags or stored in covered bins that prevent access by rats and vermin’s. There must also be organized mechanisms for the removal and disposal of refuse in every community.”